When thinking of depression, most people conjure images of hopeless tears and sadness. While crying spells and profound sadness can be a symptom of depression, they aren’t always present, and in fact many sufferers experience an absence of intense emotion. We tend to expect that people suffering from depression will be sad or have a “flat affect,” displaying little emotional fluctuation. So it’s not really a surprise that one potential symptom often goes overlooked:
Commonly acknowledged as a potential symptom of depression in youth, irritability can also manifest in adult depression sufferers (though is not itself a diagnostic criteria), and may confound proper diagnosis.
You growl at the malfunctioning printer.
You snap at your dog for whining.
You stomp out of the store when service isn’t fast enough.
Your default response to any requests from loved ones is blunt or harsh, and you constantly feel “put upon.”
People close to you may comment that you’ve been, “touchy” or “moody,” or you might notice more conflicts with coworkers or neighbors who you previously got along with easily.
There are certainly individuals who maintain this level of irritability as part of their every day personality, but for those who are generally more patient and tolerant, an increase in agitation can signal that depression is setting in. This irritability, of course, has to present with the symptoms of depression to meet diagnostic criteria.
You may chalk it up to “work stress” or “lots going on,” and that could be the reason. If this level of irritability is a change in your typical response to stress, however, it may warrant exploration. Depression left untreated can be debilitating. There is no need to suffer, though: Most people are quite responsive to treatment for depression, which may involve counseling, medication, lifestyle changes, or a combination. A therapist is a great place to start, and if you don’t have one, consider bringing your concerns to your primary care physician.
Wishing you a healthy 2018,